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Reviews of Hitmen, Iron Fists, and the Superheroes they hangout with

by  in Comic News Comment
Reviews of Hitmen, Iron Fists, and the Superheroes they hangout with

Eschewing parody for the time being, how about some reviews instead?JLA/Hitman #2– I have the first issue of this coming via reorder, which kind of makes me feel dumb for reading the second one already (the only issue my shop had), but I couldn’t stop myself after I got going. I’m sure it will read better as a whole, even though it worked perfectly well if you just looked at it as in media res storytelling, which I dig in my superhero books anyway.

Other than the fact that it was a damn good comic, which really should go without saying when it comes to Ennis and Hitman, I was interested in a couple of things in Ennis’s script. But first, I’ll quickly skim through the art.

McCrea, as always, is Ennis’s best collaborator who doesn’t have the words “Steve” and “Dillon” in his name. I was especially taken with his version of Wonder Woman; you wouldn’t think she’d fit his style, but I thought he did a good job with her. Beyond gawking at his version of Diana, I’ve always thought he was a better than average cartoonist, and he lived up to that here, balancing the disparate elements of the story (It’s a Hitman story! And a Justice League story! And a sci-fi horror story! ) and doing a good job of using the larger page count to provide some splashy visuals without going overboard; you aren’t going to see multipage establishing shots here. David Baron’s colors also help strike the balance between the different story elements as well as the characters, balancing the gritty Tommy Monaghan and the primary color JLA.

Okay, token concessions to the visuals in the visual medium aside, I can get to the part I’m no more qualified to talk about, but still want to talk about anyway; the writing. There were two things that stood out to me about this issue.

The first is how Ennis writes everyone in character. Not that he hasn’t, generally; even when he’s parodying the hell out of them, he gets these characters’ personalities down, whether it’s Spider-Man, Daredevil, or Wolverine getting the tar beaten out of them when they wandered in to an issue of his Punisher run, or Kyle Rayner showing up in the original run of Hitman; he may be making fun of them, but he’s only exaggerating their personalities. I mean, his Batman may come off as a one note dick here, but that’s not much different from how he’s usually been portrayed for years, and has only recently been consciously moved away from. Wonder Woman’s self righteousness more or less works for me, as does Superman’s conflicting emotions. I was also really struck by how much his Flash and Green Lantern were written exactly like they were in Grant Morrison’s JLA.

Which leads to the other interesting point I took from the story. Specifically, how Ennis worked in a commentary on torture in to the story. It wasn’t all that obtrusive, and he didn’t get on his soap box; it sounded like the kind of thing Wally and Kyle would talk about in Morrison’s JLA, if they ever got a chance in between all the angel wrestling and dimension hopping that went on there.

As much as I enjoy his “piss takes” on the superhero genre (although I have yet to read the Pro), it was interesting to see him play it more or less straight with some of the biggest icons in the genre. It was all of the little touches, from Tommy’s Superman fanboy love of Superman to Superman’s memorial on the moon to him, that really made this story sing. Now, hopefully, they’ll finally get around to putting the rest of the original Hitman series in trade, so those of us who are late to the party can read the Superman issue that this story references, and that Dave Campbell, among others, will tell you all about. But it would still be nice to, you know, be able to own a permanent copy of it. It won an Eisner, for god’s sake!

Immortal Iron Fist: The Last Iron First Story- Despite being a big fan of Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction (other than that bald Scottish dude, they’re my favorite writers working in comics) I was a late adopter of this series. After all the good word of mouth it’s received (well, pretty much just because Chris Sims, Ambassador of Kicks to the Face, was so enthusiastic about it), I finally decided to jump on at the start of the most recent story arc, and it’s delivered. Wanting to get the whole story so far, I decided to pick up the trade of the first arc.

It’s good comics, like I expected from a Frubaker joint. Not quite as fun as the new arc (mostly because it lacks characters named Fat Cobra), but it’s not without its face kicking charms. The idea of the Iron Fist being a legacy hero is done very well here, giving us short glimpses of other past heroes who carried the mantle in the past. Frubaker balance a lot of story elements here and set up some interesting plot threads in the process. Not all of them are paid off in this arc, but even if I wasn’t reading the current arc, I’d be interested in seeing where they were going. Which is high praise, considering I used to think of Iron Fist as that dork with a high collar and slippers who hung out with Luke Cage.

Of course, artist David Aja ditches the old costume as quickly as possible. What he comes up with is sleeker and more stylish, befitting the agile warrior that Iron Fist is. What impresses me most is how Aja’s style has the same striking qualities of a Michael Lark or Alex Maleev (colorist supreme Matt Hollingsworth’s work plays a big part in that, given the work he did with the latter artist on Daredevil) while still doing a good job with the kinetic action and everything else Frubaker throws at him in their script. I was especially taken with how well he did the facial expressions; it really helped add to Danny Rand’s personality, which is crucial in establishing him as a character worth caring about in his own right, instead of just Luke Cage’s kung-fu fighting sidekick.

Frubaker also deserve credit for- aw hell, I just wanted to say Frubraker again. This is a fun comic, worth checking out whether you’re a die hard fan of the old Deadly Hands of Kung Fu magazines or just want a good superhero comic with some martial arts flavor. Also, you really should support Frubraker; besides being fun to type, they’re probably the best collective entity in comics. If for no other reason than that Quierrson is less fun to type.

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